The Canadian Human Rights Commission is Canada's human rights watchdog. We work for the people of Canada and operate independently from the Government. The Commission helps ensure that everyone in Canada is treated fairly, no matter who they are. We are responsible for representing the public interest and holding the Government of Canada to account on matters related to human rights.
The Canadian Human Rights Act gives the Commission the authority to research, raise awareness, and speak out on any matter related to human rights in Canada. The Commission is responsible for administering the Act, which protects people in Canada from discrimination when based on any of the grounds of discrimination such as race, sex and disability. Under the Act, the Commission receives human rights complaints and works with both the complainant and respondent to resolve the issues through mediation.
When a complaint cannot be settled, or when the Commission decides that further examination is warranted, it may refer the complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for a decision. In cases where the issue has the potential to either affect the rights of many people in Canada or help define or clarify human rights law, the Commission's legal team will participate in the hearing and represent the public interest.
In addition to its work under the Employment Equity Act, the Commission supports the Accessibility Commissioner and the Pay Equity Commissioner in working with federally regulated employers to ensure they are addressing discrimination through proactive compliance with the Accessible Canada Act and the Pay Equity Act. This contributes to the elimination of employment barriers and wage discrimination in federally regulated workplaces for women, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and racialized groups.Footnote 1
The Commission operates across Canada with a team of approximately 360 people.
This year saw significant changes around the Commission's leadership table.
On November 30, 2022, Marie-Claude Landry's term as Chief Commissioner came to a close. Appointed in 2015, Ms. Landry led a wave of important changes at the Commission in her nearly eight years as leader. We thank her for steering the Commission through an era of putting people first, improving access to justice for all, and being a bold national voice on all human rights issues, as Canada's national human rights institution.
Serving temporarily as Interim Chief Commissioner is Deputy Chief Commissioner Charlotte-Anne Malischewski, who was appointed to the Commission in October 2022. She brings to the position extensive experience in human rights and administrative law, and her commitment to building a more just and equitable society.
In February 2022, the Commission welcomed the appointment of Marie-Josée Houle as Canada's First Federal Housing Advocate. The Federal Housing Advocate is an important and independent voice who pushes for change on widespread housing issues and homelessness that continue to deny people an adequate place to live in Canada.
In the spring of 2022, the Commission welcomed Michael Gottheil as Canada's first Accessibility Commissioner. Mr. Gottheil leads the Commission's Accessibility Unit in promoting compliance with and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and the Accessible Canada Regulations, which came into force at the end of 2022.
In the fall of 2022, Karen Jensen was appointed Judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in Ottawa. During her time at the Commission, Justice Jensen served as the first Federal Pay Equity Commissioner, and contributed greatly to implementing the Pay Equity Act, which aims to help close the gender wage gap in federally regulated workplaces. We have been pleased to welcome Lori Straznicky to the role of Pay Equity Commissioner on an interim basis.
By the close of 2022, the Commission's new leadership team comprised: Interim Chief Commissioner, Charlotte-Anne Malischewski; Federal Accessibility Commissioner, Michael Gottheil; Interim Pay Equity Commissioner, Lori Straznicky; full-time Commissioner, Sasha Kiran Cragg-Gore; full-time Commissioner, Jose Ordonez (as of early 2023); part-time Commissioner, Dianna Scarth; part-time Commissioner, Julie Lassonde; and part-time Commissioner, Valerie Richer.
All decisions on discrimination cases are rendered by this team of human rights Commissioners, often referred to as the Commission.